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Are Eyeshadow Base and Primer the Same Thing? Nope!

So you’ve heard some YouTubers talk about laying down a base, and you’ve also heard them talk about priming their eyes. Then you see some break out a tube of actual primer, while many others have “primed” their eyes using concealer. Still others refer to their prep work as laying down a “base.”

All of this is pretty confusing. Why are there all these exchangeable-seeming terms and methods for prepping your lids for shadow?

In this post, we’ll clear up all these things. We’ll talk about examples of both and which might be right for you. But first, let’s answer the core question.

A tan potted cream shadow
MAC Paint Pot in Painterly. Source.

Are Eyeshadow Base and Primer the Same Thing?

So, if you’re asking if base and primer are the same thing, here’s the answer:

They’re not the same. To apply a base means to put down a layer of something that will enhance vibrancy and give your shadow something to stick to. That something is usually a cream shadow or a concealer. A primer, on the other hand, refers to something literally called an eyeshadow primer. These too help with vibrancy a bit, and they provide a layer for shadow to grip on. But they also prevent fading or creasing.

So when someone refers to priming their eyes with concealer, they’re really prepping for eyeshadow by laying down a base. But the word “prime” is starting to be more fluid in meaning these days.

But the takeaway message is, yep, they’re different.

What Are Some Different Types of Bases?

I always understand things better with examples. So here are a few types of bases that people use.

  • MAC Paint Pots. For a long time, this was the most popular type of base that people used. They’re nude-toned pots of cream shadow that people apply with their fingers or a brush.
  • Colourpop’s No Filter Concealer in Fair 00. These days, it’s probably most popular for people to use concealer as a base, and this one from Colourpop is a favorite because it’s white and makes colors appear their brightest. But just as many people use concealers that are the color of their skin to even out the look of their eyelids before moving on to shadow.
  • NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk. This one’s a classic. Also white, it’s a cream shadow stick that you’d apply to the lids by drawing on and then blending. Again, folks love white bases for the way they make colors stand out.
Picture of white concealer
Here’s Colourpop’s No Filter Concealer in Fair 00. Source.

What Are Some Different Types of Primers?

And then we have primers. These are usually (but not always) in a squeezy tube or a solid tube with a doe foot applicator. And they’ll have the word “primer” in their marketing materials—either on the packaging or right on the tube.

  • Milani Eyeshadow Primer. This is a squeezy tube of primer that’s more affordable than high end but performs just the same, in my experience. It keeps your eyeshadow looking like you just put it on, even many hours later.
  • Urban Decay Primer Potion. This is the OG of primers. If you’re of a certain age, you remember when this was really the only primer on the market that people knew about. It works fantastic for prolonging eyeshadow, and it comes in a few shade options if you want some coverage, too. You’ll be shelling out some money for this one, though.
  • Too Faced Shadow Insurance. This one’s been around for awhile, too, and people have stuck with it through the years. It claims 24-hour anti-crease wear.
Primer in a purple tube
Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. Source.

Which One Should I Use?

So, are you a base person or a primer person? How can you know?

Well, I wrote an entire post called, “Are Eyeshadow Primers Worth It?” that goes into this.

But the takeaway is this: if you experience trouble with creasing or fading or if you have oily lids, opt for primer. If you have drier skin or if you need your colors to truly pop, you may find you prefer a base, especially a white one.

It’s worth experimenting. The feel of a base is different than a primer, and you might prefer one texture to another. I find it’s much cheaper and easier to get a serviceable base than a good primer (that Milani primer being the exception). So if you find they both perform the same for you, you may want to opt for a base.

One final thing. If you want the longevity of a primer with the performance that comes with using a white base, you can always layer! Put the primer on first and then add the white base. Then your colors will be brighter than the sun and your hard-achieved look will last all day.


So, are eyeshadow base and primer the same? Nope!

You put both on your lids to prep for eyeshadow, sure. But a base is a product like a concealer or cream shadow that simply lays down a first layer for shadow to stick to. A primer is known for increasing longevity and preventing creasing.

A base can do these things for certain people, but for most, a primer is how you lock your look into place. On the other hand, there are few white primers, so if you really want your brights to shine, you might choose a white base.

I’m personally a primer fan because of my issues with eyeshadow. But bases are very popular, so I don’t doubt they work better than primer for some people.

Try a few types of both! See what works for you.